COLUMBIA, Mo. — In a game where the Kentucky special teams were, once again, mired in a shambles, it was a kicker who actually saved the day with one of the most heroic plays in UK football history.
In what may well be Colin Goodfellow’s final play in a Kentucky uniform, the senior punter chased down an errant snap near the UK end zone, managed to square his body and somehow get off a kick, just moments before a Missouri defender came crashing into his kicking leg.
The punt didn’t travel far but the Wildcats ultimately did. Instead of the Tigers setting up shop inside the UK 10-yard line for what might have been the winning touchdown, it was Kentucky that retained possession. Because Goodfellow had recovered and kicked the ball inside the tackle box, Mizzou was called for roughing the kicker.
Now, instead of desperately playing defense, the Wildcats were back in business on the Missouri side of midfield. They ultimately had to punt it away but backup Wilson Berry pinned the Tigers deep in their own territory with less than 40 seconds remaining. From there, the UK defense took care of the rest,
Berry was on the field because Goodfellow was on the way to medical attention. The collision with the Missouri defender had left him in a crumpled heap near the goal line and after an extended visit from the UK medical staff, he was carted away. Golf cart injuries are never good.
“He gave up his body,” said linebacker Trevin Wallace. “You have to sacrifice some things to win a game. He sacrificed his body and look what it did for us.”
What it did was help the Wildcats win their sixth game of the season, making Mark Stoops’ team bowl-eligible for the seventh consecutive year.
“We don’t take that for granted,” Stoops said. “It’s different, year to year. With the transfer portal and everything, it’s a different environment. You can’t take that for granted.”
Perhaps we’ve all taken Kentucky’s kicking game for granted through the years. So efficient last season, special teams were anything but, once again.
Veteran kicker Marc Ruffalo missed two more makable field goals. Holder Chance Poore had to rescue another shaky snap. The most obvious error was the long snap that sailed over Goodfellow’s head as though it were shot out of a cannon.
And, ironically, the UK field goal cover unit helped the Tigers put points on the board. Chunky Mizzou kicker Harrison Levis, who stands 5-foot-11 and 254 lbs. and already has trademarked the emblem, “The Thicker Kicker,” missed a field goal try from 49 yards out. But Kentucky was flagged for offsides (one of 12 UK penalties) and, given new life, Mevis connected from 44 yards.
It’s not even math – it’s simple arithmetic. Kentucky missed two field goals and handed Missouri one of its own, meaning what should have been at least a 13-0 lead instead was merely 7-3 at halftime.
It was the third time this season the UK defense has held an opponent to no more than three points in one half. The Wildcats limited the Tigers to just 2-of-13 third-down conversions on the day.
Kentucky made it 14-3 after three quarters on a one-yard TD strike from Will Levis to Jordan Dingle, but the Mizzou offense came alive in the fourth and put two TDs on the board, grabbing a 17-14 lead.
UK responded with one more touchdown drive to re-gain the lead at 21-17 on a 22-yard scoring pass from Levis to Dane Key, who beat two defenders to the end zone.
“Dane showed who he was,” Stoops said. “That’s what I love, how guys keep on grinding.”
That would be it for the scoring but not for the high drama. As well as the Wildcat defenders had been playing, it looked as though their efforts were disappearing as quickly as that bad snap was sailing over Goodfellow’s head.
But somehow, the man who had changed his mind during the off-season and returned for his additional Covid year recovered the football and provided one of the guttiest moments the Wildcats have ever seen.
“He made,” said Stoops, “a remarkable play.”